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Why Care about Usability

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BlogWorld 2010 Speaker
Tools & Technology Track

Friday October 15, 2010
Tradewinds A& B/10

Time: 4:00PM to 5:00PM

 
Usability? Reader Experience? Meh. Who cares, right?

I’ll be speaking to you at this year’s conference about your blog’s “reader experience.” That’s a simple way of saying that we’re going to talk about website usability – which doesn’t sound as interesting, right?

Website or blog usability doesn’t mean you need to walk around with a labcoat and goggles recording obtuse figures on a clipboard. You could do this if you wanted, but yo’‚d be spending a lot of time and money to uncover things that you could find out in cheaper, less time-consuming ways. But why should you care about usability anyway?

First Impressions Count

As a blogger, content is your number one priority, right? That’s the whole idea of a blog – words, pictures, and videos that help express your viewpoint, your product or service, or just you. But when that page first loads, after I type in the domain from your business card or I stumble across you when looking for tweed blankets from Scotland, I’ll see a general look and feel and some header information that will orientate me to where I have landed. This is important because I’m quickly making a gut reaction on what I find. My first impressions could tell me things like:

  • You aren’t what I am looking for.
  • You aren’t trustworthy.

Bad first impressions could me a user hits the back button before you even get to start expressing yourself. Usability can help make sure you get new visitors off on the right footing.

Easy Usability Test: Find someone in a café and ask them if they have a minute, flash up a copy of your website for 15 seconds, then ask them what they thought you were selling and what you were about. The results may be surprising.

Keeping Them Along for the Ride

Catering to new readers is hard, but catering to your regular readers is even trickier and very important for the long term health of your blog. Successful bloggers know the kinds of problems you have to avoid when trying to keep your readers along for the ride:

  • Keeping a healthy balance of revenue-generation (advertisements, sales pitches, etc) versus value-generation (content, information, and advice that you are the expert for).
  • Organizing the archive of all that content so it remains useful and easily accessible.
  • Developing a unique voice without repeating oneself .

The key to making each of these tasks a lot simpler is to really understand your Ideal Reader as clearly and detailed as possible. How do you feel when you visit a blog and feel like that blogger wrote something just for you?

Easy Usability Test: Picture your Ideal Reader in your mind, then write down a list of tasks you might want to take after reading a blog post. Now, find an innocent victim tester from your mailing list or your forum and ask them to try and do those things. You sit and watch, say nothing. Did your tester get confused or frustrated at any point?

Closing the Deal

If you’re reading this, your blog probably is a business in itself or it is attached to a business, whether that’s your widget sales or your services. So, at some point you need to bring those readers back into a call to action. Usability can help you make that call to action and close the deal, because it is tricky. How many times have you heard someone say:

  • You do what? I didn’t know that! Why didn’t I know about this service before?
  • I unsubscribed from his list – it was nothing but sell, sell, sell!
  • I definitely wanted a copy of her new eBook, but I couldn’t find it on her site. I guess it isn’t available anymore.

You have to ask people to do something, make it easy for them to do it, and you have to keep repeating yourself to remind them without being a jerk. Testing and usability gives you a structured way to do this.

Easy Usability Test: You’ll need another victim tester for this one, but find one and just ask them if they know about the products and services you provide. Do new people know what you do? What about those who’ve been around awhile? Candid feedback can make a huge difference (and improvement) to your approach.

Andy will be presenting Does Your Blog Create A Great Reader Experience? Why Ugly Websites Sometimes Make Happier Readers, on Friday, October 15th at 4 PM. If you can‚t make it, or want to know more about website usability right now, have a look at his popular new eBook, Why Your Website Sucks ˆ And How to Fix It.

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